Thursday 23 May 2013

The Level of Debate

The news that ASLEF have showed their hand by formally backing the No Campaign - whilst disappointing, is no surprise given they were already providing financial support.

I am not sure what mechanisms of consultation were used to engage their membership, but I find the claim that not one member will vote for Independence incredibly silly.

Other Trade Unions are correctly taking a longer term view and engaging with their members through the STUC "A Just Scotland" consultation, which correctly challenges all sides of the debate to demonstrate how the options will benefit the lives of working people.

But lets come back to ASLEF.  Simple research uncovers a rather offensive article in their Newsletter last year, where a certain Tom Burns of their Perth Branch wrote in inflammatory terms.

Among the gems of criticism were

(a) no guarantees that the heirs of Queen Elizabeth would be head of state in an Independent Scotland
(b) the stated intentions of multinationals to relocate south of the border - without naming anyone in particular
(c) That Holyrood is a single legislative chamber with no checks and balances - but the devolved parliament isn't a stand alone institution and ignores the ongoing debate about where powers should sit at an even further local level in Scotland
(d) That the SNP Government discriminates against English Students - ignoring legal context
(e) The SNP is anti-English - despite the existence of English born parliamentarians and Government Ministers and activists who are entirely comfortable with campaigning for independence - as it's about the right to self-determination not tribalism

It is of course the prerogative of ASLEF to publish such arrant nonsense, but leaves serious questions as to why such an article would find itself in a Trade Union news sheet, as is the decision to show their hand in the constitutional debate now.

Interestingly the debate within the Trade Unions is beginning to heat up after STUC Congress and UK Conferences due to take place over the Summer.

The Jimmy Reid Foundation also has very useful suggestions, in its new document "The Common Weal", on the type of economic and social renewal that can take place in Scotland - looking at examples in the Nordic and Germanic countries.  Dealing with issues such as Tax reform, welfare, a proper investment bank, and various models of company ownership are just some of the issues which should lead the debate over the next year or so within the Trade Union Movement.

The level of the debate within Trade Unions has the capacity to lead the way, and perhaps ASLEF will regret showing their hand and their arguments so early on - as all it would take to completely undermine their stance is for one single ASLEF member to come forward and express their support for independence.


  1. The RMT are seeking members opinions on independence at a series of meetings in October, dates and venues as yet TBC.

    The ASLEF stuff is farcical, repeating nonsense scare stories and trying to blacken the repution of anyone who supports independence as anti English.

    I had written a piece on union membership and independence on the Quirkynats forum, sadly the forum no longer exists or I'd link to it. Suffice to say if you are a union member make your views known and if your union (ASLEF for example) supports a political party you disagree with, opt out of the union political fund. They don't like to advertise this fact, but if enough members do so it may send them a small but significant message.

  2. chris i have had an ASLEF member contact me on twitter to say they were not asked and no debate was held that the delegates took this decision with out asking members

  3. hi chris i had a ASLEF member contact me on my twitter page to say that delegates took this decision with out asking members views